Maeve leaves mark on world

Kettlebell star strikes gold

Dean Goodison

Maeve Carey of Wexford Kettlebell Club displaying her two world championship gold medals with her trainer, Mick Kelly
Maeve Carey of Wexford Kettlebell Club displaying her two world championship gold medals with her trainer, Mick Kelly

The frequently trodden path to becoming a world champion begins in childhood for most athletes. Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours of practice theory, while it has several critics, is also often dropped into the conversations about the path to greatness.

However, barely 9,000 hours have passed in the life of Maeve Carey since she picked up her first kettlebell last November. Yet, conventional wisdom didn't prevent Wexford's latest success story from completing her goal of returning from Kazakhstan with two world championship golds recently.

As if that achievement wasn't special enough, in the process of winning that second gold medal of the week, in the open amateur veteran +68 kg. women's snatch, after taking the overall title three days earlier, Carey also produced a personal best, beating the Irish national record by a single lift, with a total of 228 reps., in the process.

Becoming world champion in her age group, and the overall female winner in the best snatch score of any category, is all the more impressive given Carey's route to the top.

A long-distance swimmer, she had other goals just 18 months ago.

'Last year I was doing a lot of swimming,' Carey explained. 'On the 30th of July I swam across the English channel, from England to France. I continued swimming over the summer, into October, while the sea was warm.'

The swim took Carey just eleven minutes short of 15 hours to complete; an incredible feat of strength and endurance. Looking for an activity to pique her interest during the winter months, she happened upon Mick Kelly's Total Fitness Systems in Westpoint, Clonard.

'I thought it looked interesting,' admitted the double world champion. 'I joined up there, started to do circuit training two evenings a week, then I saw the kettlebell club, and I asked about it.

'They said they had competitions and there was one coming up on the 5th of December, it was a short little five-minute competition in Cork, so I thought I might as well give that a go. I love to train for something that gives me the motivation rather than just keeps me fit.

'That's how it all started, it was that little five-minute competition down in Cork. I had a blast, took home some medals, and that gave me the buzz. It was just a new challenge to get better.

'In that competition I was lifting the 12 kg., then I saw the 16 kg., then I saw the ranking system, then I saw if you compete you can represent Ireland in the European championships and the World championships and I started looking on Youtube at the top kettlebellers.'

Before long Carey was beating all those in front of her on the way to the Cup of Ireland title, qualifying for the world championships in Aktobe, Kazakhstan, in the process.

In her first competition, the women's amateur snatch +68 kg., Carey set the standard, scoring 222 reps., beating Russian Olga Malakhova and German Olivia Rasigraf (both 210 reps.) into second and third place.

With just three days' rest, knowing she could post her score from the overall competition to take the veteran title too, Carey came back out anyway, producing a stunning total of 228 reps., a new Irish national record, beating Catherine Cleary's 227.

For such a quick learner, and improver, it will come as no surprise that Carey is already looking ahead. The next test is to step up to the professional level, taking on the bigger 24 kg. kettlebells, and it's a process she is going to take slowly.

'If you compete at the 24 kg. at international level, you can't pop down to the 16 kg. again,' explained Carey, 'so I'll probably continue with the 16 kg. at national level for a while.

'In the background I'll be working with the heavier weight, when I feel ready. I don't know if it is going to be 2017, or whether it will be 2018, but once I'm at a decent level, I'll go for Europeans or the worlds.

It's a 'when', rather than an 'if' she makes it that far. By then, Carey expects to be joined by some of the young, rising Wexford talent showing so much promise in the sport in a great learning environment.

'I had no notion that Mick's gym, the kettlebells and the competition was pretty much just ten minutes away from me,' she said.

'We have such a lovely club, and an opportunity in Wexford town, so I'm really appreciative of it.

'We have a good gang and a solid base of great potential with the youths there. We have the teenagers there and they are turning up for the training on a regular basis, so much dedication.

'Throughout the year I see them at every club session. I can't wait to see what they are going to be able to do in a few years' time.'

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